Workshop Encourages Differentiating Equity From Diversity and Inclusion

During an interactive workshop titled Moving from Inviting to Equitable, Dr. Marsha Foster Boyd, a proven thought leader in the field of higher education, and Matthew Abrams, a facilitator, teacher, and coach, invited thoughtful discussion by workshop participants about what steps can be taken to move toward a culture where everyone’s values, heritage, voice, worldview, and lifestyle are embraced.

 

In what they termed “the Big Welcome,” Dr. Boyd and Mr. Abrams offered an expansive embrace of all participants’ cultures and personas – the totality of their beings, really – in the hope of achieving an environment in the course of an hour that would lead to a better understanding of what constitutes true equity.

 

They encouraged numerous approaches to discussion: “listening to understand,” “sharing the air,” “own your story,” “no screens,” and “be curious.” Their reason for asking for agreement on these principles, they explained, was to achieve an equitable environment for the ensuing discussion.

 

After welcoming participants and reaching agreement on principles, the two thought leaders opened the floor for input from participants by asking them to gather into nine groups of three each that were called upon to describe what diversity, inclusion and equity are and to post their definitions on poster paper taped on the room’s walls. They further urged participants to share what experiences they may have had relating to diversity.

 

Following the posting of definitions, the two thought leaders “harvested” inputs from participants about what struck them as common threads among what had been posted after they’d taken time to observe each other’s posted comments.

 

In her concluding remarks Marsha agreed with one participant who averred that what distinguished equity from inclusion and diversity was that “equity involves power, “ whereas inclusion and diversity do not necessarily. “Equity is on a continuum,” Marsha offered, with Matt adding, “With equity there’s no fence” [in social settings].

 

Another participant observed that too often people “tell you” what equity is, rather than discussing with you what it is. He further added that at times achieving equity is perceived as taking away power from one person in order to achieve it for another.

 

As the session came to a close, the two thought leaders revealed three different definitions of diversity, inclusion and equity that they have gleaned in the course of their work.

 

‘Diversity’ was defined as “the presence of difference within a given setting;” ‘Inclusion’ as “folks with different identities feeling and/or being valued, leveraged, and welcomed within a given setting;” whereas ‘Equity’ is “an approach that ensures everyone the same opportunities.”